The future of minimalism in web design and how to achieve it

The future of minimalism in web design and how to achieve it
Photo: Redpixel, Bigstock

Minimalist design is currently ruling the web – quite literally, as its key principles are dictating the trends in web design. We’re completely used to clean and uncluttered interfaces, perhaps without even realizing that this sleek design, which can be labelled as “contemporary”, is a reflection of the minimalist philosophy.

Naturally, the question arises: how will this evolve further? To gain some insight, let’s first look at how minimalism came to rule contemporary web design and what its key principles are.

The development of web design

The first web page ever went live on August 6th, 1991, kicking off the Internet revolution. More pioneering websites followed using the first generation of HTML, all entirely text-based. Web design evolved in fascinating ways since then, further encompassing a larger set of skills and making graphic design an inherent part of it.  

In fact, “web design” wasn’t really a concept in those pioneering days – surely not in the way we perceive it today. Then CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) developed, giving website builders more control over features such as text styles and sizes as well as background color. Things kicked off from there, with JavaScript stepping in, offering options of drop-down menus and advanced navigation.

Over the next two decades, noisy interfaces, heavy with HTML elements, were slowly evolving. Or rather, they were being replaced by more careful structures. Web design had become a concept, as designers focused on accessibility and structure to make better websites, establishing standards as they learned what works best.

It comes as no surprise that this evolution led to minimalist web design. As the tools of the craft developed, more options became available, easily leading to noisy and cluttered UIs. Just like in the case of other areas of design, minimalism stepped in to offer elegance, simplicity, and room to breathe.   

Achieving the minimalist aesthetic

Websites whose design abides by the laws of minimalism may be trendy right now, but it is important to remember that minimalism is not a trend. It’s a design language that’s equally widespread in architecture, fashion, graphic design, etc. This language can be manipulated to various extents to form contemporary trends, but its philosophy remains the same: using the essential elements of design in order to strip away all that is excess or redundant. Because of this, minimalism is timeless, as it seeks to emphasize the very essence of what you’re trying to convey visually.

Every element of the designed layout needs to have a clear purpose, and if it doesn’t – it’s not necessary. Now, this purpose doesn’t only have to relate to functionality, but also to how you use visual aspects. That’s why the minimalist aesthetic works so well with the digital design, as it provides intuitive UI.

But there’s more: the minimalist aesthetic, with its cleanliness and simplicity, ensures faster-loading speed and an emphasis on the content, directing users effortlessly to where you want them to look. It’s become crucial to designing for the mobile experience, to which much of the focus is shifting, as the best app designs rely on a clean and functional look for improved UX and usability.

The key elements of this approach to web design are:

  • Providing effortless navigation
  • Segmenting information into categories to add lightness to the design
  • Using negative space to emphasize content
  • Avoiding excess details and buttons
  • Maintaining a simple color palette,
  • Using typography as a visual statement

Minimalism calls for a perfect balance – focusing on the fundamentals to convey your message without any excess visual content.

That’s why the best starting point is to consider the purpose of your website first, then prioritize. Is the purpose to inform, to showcase, to sell, or something else? Pinpoint this and make your purpose clear – don’t spread too thin and think usability first.  

Where minimalist web design is headed

The philosophy behind minimalism is timeless, but naturally, web design is constantly evolving and improving. So what will the take on minimalist web design be in the future?

Well, we can’t offer precise predictions because there is a lot of creative freedom that design offers, as designers develop their unique styles using fundamental principles. But we can see some major changes being introduced by Google’s Material Design. While still maintaining the clean minimalist approach, Google’s designers are embracing the style in a new way by using shadow effects and the concepts of movement and depth in their designs. This approach is a fresh take on the minimalist flat design, and it aims to make designs appear more realistic to users, improving UX and UIs across devices.

Skeumorphism is also making a comeback (rather quietly), and as far as trends go, we can expect it to morph with the flat design to make new style language forms.

We’ll sure be seeing some more unique takes on the minimalist aesthetic in the future, as well as some hot minimalist-inspired trends. But also, we might be seeing some trends that are meant to oppose minimalism because it’s become the norm across the web. For example, brutalism is a style that’s starting to buzz in the digital world. It presents a rebellion against minimalism, with UX intentionally ignored and content presented in a very “screaming in your face kind of way”.

It’s an interesting phenomenon to observe, but we can all agree – there is no web design without devoted attention to UX. Which is just one of the reasons why minimalism isn’t going away anytime soon.